Baylor University's Pruit Memorial Symposium to Focus on Baptist Heritage

Sept. 11, 2009

Follow us on Twitter:@BaylorUMediaCom

Emmy Award nominee, author and prize-winning historian Randall Balmer will be among those making presentations at a Baylor University symposium in October as the Baptist faith marks its 400th anniversary.

"Religion, Politics and Society: The Baptist Contribution" will be the theme of the annual Pruit Memorial Symposium on Oct. 1-3.

More than 100 attendees are expected, among them ministers and faculty members from Baylor and other universities, including those from religion, sociology, history, political science and philosophy departments.

Topics to be explored include historical Baptist stances on religious liberty, African-American contributions to the Baptist tradition and Baptist contributions to society.

Dr. Balmer's address is Mistaken Identity: Jimmy Carter, the Religious Right and the "Peculiar Glory" of Baptists.

"It's hard to imagine what America would look like without Baptists," Balmer said.

Baptist origins date back to 1609, when English Separatists fled to Amsterdam to seek religious freedom. Their beliefs helped shape the Constitution and religious liberty in the United States, he said.

"The Constitution is the best friend that religion has," Balmer said. "It essentially established this free marketplace for religions, for a competitive arena," he said. "People are trying to compete for followings, and that's a Baptist approach."

Balmer, an Episcopal priest and professor of American religious history at Columbia University, is the author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America. The book was made into a three-part documentary for PBS and nominated for an Emmy Award.

Other featured speakers and topics will be:

• Nancy Ammerman, professor of the sociology of religion, of Boston University: Citzens/Baptists: Equal Souls, Voluntary Churches, Missionary Ambassadors

• Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance: Human Rights and the Baptist World Alliance.

• Fisher Humphreys, professor emeritus of theology, Samford University: Baptist Contributions to Theology.

"The Pruit Symposium began as a way for students and faculty to explore current issues in our society and is designed to ensure there is at least a Baptist voice in that," said Dr. Bill Bellinger, chair of the Department of Religion at Baylor University.

Papers will be presented on Baptists' impact on historical social justice issues, such as the temperance movement, the peacemakers' movement and the social gospel, said Dr. Bill Pitts, a Baylor University professor of religion.

Baptists number more than 43 million worldwide.

The Pruit Memorial Symposium Endowment Fund was established in 1996 by Lev H. Prichard III and his wife, Ella Wall Prichard of Corpus Christi, in memory of Helen Pruit Matthews and her brothers, Dr. Lee Tinkle Pruit and William Wall Pruit.



• 7:30 p.m.: opening session led by Dr. Balmer

FRIDAY, Oct. 2

• 7:30 a.m., continental breakfast

• 9-11 a.m. a.m., breakout session

• 11 a.m. to noon: Session led by Callam

• 5 p.m.: Session led by Nancy Ammerman


7:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast

9-11 a.m. Breakout session

11 a.m.-noon: Session led by Humphreys

The symposium will be at Cashion Academic Center, 1401 S. Fourth St., on Baylor University campus in Waco.

The event is free for Baylor students and faculty, except for a $10 charge for the Friday night dinner. Cost for non-Baylor attendees is $65 for faculty members and $45 for students.

Registration deadline is Sept. 25. For more information, call 254-710-3362, or to register online, visit

Contact:Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

Looking for more news from Baylor University?